*PHOTOGRAPH © MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON Art in Bloom arrangement with Grotto by the Seaside in the Kingdom of Naples with Banditti, Sunset at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. With art object: Grotto by the Seaside in the Kingdom of Naples with Banditti, Sunset; Joseph Wright of Derby (English, 1734–1797) - 1778, Oil on canvas - *Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund and other Funds, by exchange - April 29, 2016

Three sure signs of Spring (finally!) coming to Boston – the Marathon, the Red Sox, and Art In Bloom at the Museum of Fine Arts.

While sports fans were lacing up their running shoes or anxiously awaiting Opening Day at Fenway Park, dozens of Garden Clubs across Massachusetts were preparing floral interpretations of some of the MFA’s masterpieces.

The results are available for your visual and olfactory enjoyment at the 41st annual Art In Bloom, the MFA’s festival of fine art and flowers, Saturday through Monday, April 29 to May 1.

In addition to the pairings of art and flowers, the MFA also offers master classes, a presentation by renowned floral designer Ariella Chezar, and demonstrations of Ikebana, Japanese flower arranging.

How do the Garden Clubs come up with fresh ideas for their designs? I asked Sue O’Brien, Chair of Art In Bloom to take me through how the Clubs get it done.

Michael: What’s the process?

Sue: Museum Associates select the artworks and then pair the objects with the Garden Club Arrangers. To spark inspiration, most Arrangers use the eight weeks between receiving their assignment and Art in Bloom to research the object, including its artist, era, genre, construct and colors.

Michael: Are there limits or constraints?

Sue: There are rules in place to protect the art, such as restricting accessories and prohibiting standing water. We also monitor the stability of the container and the internal structure of the arrangement. In terms of design, there are no constraints. Arrangers wrestle with how literally they want to represent their object with flowers, or if they prefer to take an interpretive approach, somewhat like a jazz riff. The result is that even the most frequent Museum visitor can enjoy the art in a new way!

Michael: How exactly do you relate flowers to art?

Sue: Arrangers use flower shapes, textures, colors, sizes, and other principles and elements of design to form a unified whole expressing the floral idea they wish to convey. Frequently, finding just the right container is key to a successful starting point for the design.

Michael: What if a Club is given something from ancient Greece or China?

Sue: When interpreting an ancient work of art, Arrangers will often use plant material that was indigenous to the time and location of the object’s origin. The space in the gallery can also impact design inspiration.

Michael: Who are the arrangers?

Sue: While Garden Club Arrangers are technically amateurs, most are highly skilled flower arrangers with years of training and entering flower shows. For Art in Bloom, they are essentially creating art using flowers and leaves, rather than paint or clay.

Michael: How do they get the flowers into the MFA?

Sue: On Friday morning of Art in Bloom weekend, Arrangers enter the Museum at 6:30 am with their plant material and all the gear needed to create their design. They will work with an Assistant but must be finished by 9:15.

Michael: What are some of the works that will be part of Art In Bloom this year?

Sue: This year, there is an entire gallery of Monet paintings, a room of 19th-century art of the English Regency, an 18th-century Chinese textile, the iconic Thomas Sully painting, “The Passage of the Delaware” and the MFA’s newly acquired Frida Kahlo painting, “Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia).”

For further information, http://www.mfa.org/programs/series/art-in-bloom

*PHOTOGRAPH © MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTONArt in Bloom arrangement with Rough Sea at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. With art object: Rough Sea, Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael (Dutch, 1628 or 1629–1682); about 1670 – Oil on canvas – *William Francis Warden Fund – April 29, 2016


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